With President Obama set to give his State of the Union address tonight, conveniently right about the same time the Lightning will drop the puck, why not have our own State of the Lightning address? We're just past the mid-way point of the season and the All-Star Break and trade deadline are coming up fast.
Where We Are
As of right now, we are 5th in the Atlantic Division with a 21-17-4 record for 46 points. We are also trailing the Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils by one point for the last Wild Card spot and Montreal Canadiens by two points for third in the division. Steven Stamkos leads the team with 18 goals which puts him tied for 12th in the NHL. Victor Hedman leads the team with 18 assists which puts him tied for 65th in the NHL. Nikita Kucherov leads the team with 33 points making him tied for 32nd in the league. The team has an 18.2% success rate on the power play or 16th in the NHL and a 78.9% success rate on the penalty kill ranking them 22nd in the league.
Why We're Here
The club has lost a fairly significant amount of games to injury this season so far among the forward corps. On defense, only Victor Hedman has missed a game from the blue line because of injury and he was only out for one game. Other than Mattias Ohlund of course. With 42 games having been played, here is a list of forwards that have missed time to injury with their number of games.
- Cedric Paquette - 22
- Ondrej Palat - 20
- Jonathan Drouin - 19
- Tyler Johnson - 13
- Erik Condra - 6
- Brian Boyle - 5
- J.T. Brown - 2
- Ryan Callahan - 1
- Alex Killorn - 1
Where's the Drama
Jonathan Drouin. That's where the drama is right now. He was recently assigned to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. Immediately thereafter, his agent released a statement that he had requested a trade for his client in November. Since then, hockey media has been abuzz with Drouin speculation. Steve Yzerman is a smart executive. There's a good reason he won an Executive of the Year award. He's put together a good team and a good farm system that the Lightning have not had in a long time (ever?).
Now, Drouin's playing in Syracuse and has put up 2 goals in three games. It still remains to be seen if he'll ever suit up for Tampa Bay again. He may be traded before the deadline. He may spend the rest of the season in the AHL and then be traded in the off-season. Or maybe he makes it back to the Bolts in a role that he's happy with and contributes to the team's playoff run, who knows? But for now, it's masking some of the drama surrounding Steven Stamkos' lack of an extension half way through the final season of his contract.
Where Do We Go From Here
Stamkos and Ben Bishop were picked for the All Star Game from the Lightning. A few people were upset that Kucherov and Hedman didn't get selected. However, I'd like to point out that because of the format, only 11 players per division were selected to the team. With every team requiring at least one representative, that only allowed three other slots for "bonus players" and the Lightning got one. Only a small handful of teams got two representatives and only a couple had three. Getting Kucherov or Hedman in likely would have meant Stamkos being left off.
After the All Star Break, the trade deadline will be fast approaching on February 29th. The Lightning have a little over a month to firmly get themselves back into a playoff position. Yzerman has had a history of being a buyer and I expect this year to be no different. He has some assets to work with, including an extra 2nd round draft pick. He has Drouin as a possible piece if he decides he wants to make that kind of move. If he was making a hockey move, that is a roster player for a roster player, he could do a deal involving Valterri Filppula or Vladislav Namestnikov as the team is fairly deep at center and could probably use a veteran defenseman to bolster the top four. Such a move could also open a space back up for Drouin in the lineup.
If the Lightning end up sliding further back from the pack in the 2016 NHL playoff race and Yzerman decides to be a seller, he has assets that to consider dealing:
- Braydon Coburn will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and has value as a veteran defenseman
- Valtteri Filppula still has a couple years remaining on his contract at a $5 million cap hit, but could be useful for a team needing a stronger, defensive second line center for this playoff run and into the future.
- Alex Killorn will be a restricted free agent and in for a pretty nice raise this summer and could bring in a return of at least a 1st round pick to a contender needing a complementary top six winger.
What's the Future
Hopefully the future of this team is the playoffs and a strong run at the Stanley Cup Finals. Considering the talent this team has, they have under performed thus far and need to get it in gear now that the forwards are healthy again. The Triplets need to start clicking and return to their former glory. Stamkos needs some steady linemates to gain chemistry and consistent performance with. And Yzerman needs to figure out what to do with Jonathan Drouin and Steven Stamkos. Any which way this shakes out, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out.